Ivan IV Vasilyevich, more commonly known as ‘Ivan the Terrible’, had more than five different wives throughout his life (1530-1584). His first, and longest marriage, was a lady named Anastasia Romanovna. Born in 1530, Anastasia was the daughter of a Boyar named Roman Yurievich Zakharyin-Yuriev. His name later provided the foundation for the Romanov dynasty.
Anastasia first met Ivan in the Kremlin at an event specifically designed to help him find the best bride possible. Talk about romantic! That said, all of the daughters of noble families in Russia were invited and it is alleged there were anywhere between 500 and 1,500 women to choose from. Still, hardly a Romeo and Juliet-style tale. They officially married on the 3rd February 1547 at the Cathedral of the Annunciation, located on the southwest side of the Moscow Kremlin in Russia.
With a nickname like ‘Ivan the Terrible’, what did she expect?! I mean, obviously she did not know this would become his legacy, but the warning signs were there from the outset. Anastasia went on to provide six children for Ivan, but apparently, that was not good enough. In 1581, years after Anastasia’s own death, Ivan the Terrible killed the heir and second son that Anastasia had provided him. Striking him repeatedly with a sceptre, his father accused him of inciting rebellion and punished him accordingly. It is believed, however, he regretted this move and immediately threw himself at his son and attempted to stop the bleeding. This was to no avail, he died a few days later on the 19th November 1581.
Mysterious circumstances surround poor Anastasia’s death. In 1560 she fell ill and soon died. Ivan suspected that Anastasia had been poisoned; he consequently tortured and executed some of those he believed responsible for her death. Though there was no evidence of a crime at the time, further archaeological and forensic research has revealed unusually high levels of mercury in Anastasia’s hair. While that may indict poison, mercury was also used as a medicine during this era and thus it is hard to decipher what precisely happened; we can only speculate.